BFTN #14 2018-08-20
August 20, 2018
BFTN #15 2018-08-27
August 27, 2018
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Part TWENTY of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “Operation Golden Flow”.

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Show Notes:

  • Meanwhile,  in the early 1970s, Nixon put together something called The Shafer Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, to make recommendations about what the government should do about marijuana.
  • Its chairman was former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer.
  • The commission issued a report on its findings in 1972 that called for the decriminalization of marijuana possession in the United States.
  • It said “the criminalization of possession of marihuana for personal is socially self-defeating”
  • It said “Considering the range of social concerns in contemporary America, marihuana does not, in our considered judgment, rank very high. We would deemphasize marihuana as a problem.”
  • Health effects are minimal.
  • The “gateway drug” theory has no basis.
  • If anything, smoking marijuana inhibits criminal behavior.
  • They concluded that the reason people were so worried about the drugs wasn’t based on any of the usual things people pointed to.
  • It was because it was associated with kids dropping out, growing their hair long, free love, rock and roll, sex and questioning authority.
  • “Marihuana becomes more than a drug; it becomes a symbol of the rejection of cherished values.”
  • Of course – The report was ignored by the White House.
  • And by the media.
  • I went searching for coverage of it – it’s practically non-existent.
  • The only coverage in the media was a year later, when another report came out basically debunking the original report.
  • Oh and in 1976, Robert Hegyes, who played Epstein on Welcome Back Kotter, gave the report a shout out.
  • Here’s his first appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZskDTbnmZw
  • The director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Bertram Brown, said in a speech he thought marijuana offenses should be treated “like a parking ticket.”
  • Nixon fired him.
  • Back in Vietnam, the army started cracking down hard on heroin use.
  • Whole battalions of troops were diverted from combat against the NVA to try to catch suppliers, smash supply lines, seize sampans full of smack.
  • The vials of heroin that Krogh had seen in the bunkers went from $3 to $12 apiece, and their purity dropped.
  • it was a catastrophe.
  • When Krogh saw men snorting, smoking, or drinking heroin with alcohol, he was seeing the luxurious effects of low prices and high purity.
  • Nobody likes sticking a needle in his own arm (at least not at first); early heroin users find it far more pleasant to snort or smoke or drink, and those practices are far less likely to get them addicted.
  • But all three ways require the user to consume a good deal of the powder, which is a luxury he cannot afford if the price quadruples and the purity drops.
  • Then the user has to find a way to get more bang for his buck, and the most direct way to get heroin to the brain is to inject it.
  • By cracking down on marijuana, the army had pushed its troops into snorting heroin.
  • By cracking down on snorting heroin, the army pushed its men into mainlining.
  • In June of 1972, Jaffe was summoned again to Washington.
  • This time he was to present his plan for dealing with drugs to Nixon himself.
  • At the meeting, Nixon declared that he was creating a new agency – the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, or SAODAP.
  • It would operate out of the Executive Office of the President with the highest authority in the land, enough authority to “knock heads”.
  • He would tomorrow ask Congress to appropriate $371 million for SAODAP, so it can set up a comprehensive testing and treatment program for the soldiers in Vietnam — and also fund a vast network of state-run methadone maintenance clinics in the U.S.
  • Finally, Nixon said, I want to introduce the new director of SAODAP, the man who will oversee our nation’s antidrug effort.
  • He extended his hand in Jaffe’s direction. “Jerome Jaffe.”
  • It took Jaffe a moment to realize what had just happened.
  • Although the term hadn’t yet entered the lexicon, Jerry Jaffe had just become the nation’s first drug czar.
  • Here’s Nixon’s press conference AFTER he went to Congress.
  • Here’s the actual press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8TGLLQlD9M
  • As you can hear, he talks about drugs like it was the hordes of hell beating on the door of America.
  • Public Enemy Number One.
  • PUBLIC ENEMY
  • You always need a big scary boogieman.
  • The drug problem was now firmly established as a problem of individuals.
  • The solution would be to get those individuals to stop using drugs.
  • “Root causes” was well and truly dead.
  • The next day there was a press conference about the creation of SAODAP.
  • The journalists asked Jaffe for his opinion on whether or not marijuana should be legalised.
  • He tried to avoid the question – because he really didn’t care about marijuana or think it was a problem.
  • But he couldn’t really be seen to be disagreeing with the President on the first day of his job.
  • So he rambled on, basically managed to say that while marijuana itself wasn’t a problem, using a drug which was illegal might make people more willing to use other drugs that were illegal.
  • And the reporters dropped the subject.
  • Nixon got up in front of Congress that day to ask them to finance the new unit.
  • Heroin addicts, he told Congress, steal over $2 billion worth of property a year to support their habits.
  • This was patent nonsense.
  • In 1971, the total value of all property stolen in the U.S — whether in burglaries, robberies, or thefts — was $1.3 billion.
  • So Nixon was blaming a quarter of a million addicts for 153% of the property crime committed in the U.S.
  • Nobody thought to question the figure.
  • It was widely reported as holy writ.
  • Nixon had a few more bright ideas around this time.
  • One idea he had was to buy up the world’s supply of opium.
  • Nixon, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, his Attorney General John Mitchell, who later served 19 months for his involvement in Watergate, adviser to the President Pat Moynihan and Myles Ambrose, the commissioner of Customs, sat in the Oval and tried to figure out how much it would cost.
  • $50 million? $100 million?
  • Most of the guys in the room thought it was a good idea.
  • Ambrose said he felt like he was Alice in Wonderland.
  • He said if they went ahead with the plan, he was seriously thinking of going into the opium business himself.
  • That shut down THAT idea.
  • Then Nixon had another idea.
  • He quietly instructed Krogh to tell Turkey the USA would pay them $35 million in “aid” if they shut down their opium farms.
  • Nixon held a press conference with the Turkish ambassador and praised them for their “decision” to end all further opium production.
  • “as a result of negotiations, the Turkish government has made a decision”
  • He neglected to mention the $35 million in aid.
  • Unfortunately the PR value of the press conference was nil.
  • On the same day it happened, the U.S. Supreme Court gave the NYT permission to publish the Pentagon Papers.
  • Nixon was obsessed with finding out who had leaked the documents and stopping further leaks.
  • He gave Krogh the job.
  • Krogh hired the guy who had been his chief operative during Operation Intercept, the attempt to shut down the border with Mexico – G. Gordon Liddy.
  • Because Krogh’s team worked in the basement and their job was to plug leaks, they were called the White House Plumbers.
  • Krogh’s work with the plumbers meant he was never to return to drug policy.
  • When the administration decided to pursue the Pentagon Papers leakers, it was Krogh who approved the September 1971 burglary of the office of Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist seeing Daniel Ellsberg.
  • Liddy and E. Howard Hunt would commit the actual break-in.
  • John Ehrlichman, counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, who was Krogh’s boss, and who personally brought him into the White House (they knew each other from their early days in Seattle), and who himself went to prison for Watergate related crimes, would later write in his memoirs this was an example of “such doubtful personal judgment … that it has to be said [Krogh] materially contributed to the demise of the Nixon administration.”
  • On November 30, 1973, Krogh pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to violate Fielding’s civil rights and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
  • He was sentenced to two to six years in prison, though he served only four-and-a-half months.
  • After serving his time federal prison for the Watergate scandal, John Ehrlichman granted an interview to author Dan Baum, who reports that Ehrlichman explained the origin of the war on drugs this way: The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
  • Meanwhile in Vietnam, the army had invested in TWO urine analysis machines for troops scheduled to rotate out.
  • As Jaffe had predicted, once word got out that men who failed the urine test would be kept in Vietnam longer, the numbers dropped dramatically.
  • The urine testing facilities were known as the “Pee House of the August Moon” – a reference to the film The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) in which Marlon Brando played an Okinawan.
  • Other unofficial names were “Operation Golden Flow” and “Lemonade Party”.
  • Unfortunately, Congress had authorized only a single week of detox and three weeks of stateside follow-up, a ridiculously short period of treatment to get an addict off heroin.
  • But even more surprisingly – Most of those who had been addicts in Vietnam simply stopped using when they got home.
  • It turns out that when you aren’t trapped in a jungle with people trying to kill you, you no longer need to shoot smack.
  • It feels like a lesson to learn more about the root causes of drug addiction was missed there.
  • A few days before Christmas 1971, Nixon made Myles Ambrose “Special Consultant to the President for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement.”
  • Ambrose had cooked up an idea for a new way to tackle drugs.
  • His idea was for a new federal agency that would report to the White House and be making street-level drug arrests.
  • the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, or O.D.A.L.E.
  • It was designed to make the White House’s involvement in the war on drugs more visible.
  • No new money was appropriated.
  • It only had 300 agents.
  • As one White House deputy put it, the feds need to bust street dealers for the same reason Mafia dons occasionally knock off a rival in public —just to show we can do it.
  • And it wasn’t permanent; it had a sunset provision of eighteen months — long enough to take Nixon through the coming election.
  • The agency that became the DEA.
  • But according to journalist Nicholas Pileggi, the guy who wrote the book that Scorsese turned into “Goodfellas”, ODALE was really set up by Nixon as his own private Gestapo.
  • With a bunch of new laws he pushed through, like no-knock warrants and preventative-detention, combined with the Plumbers, he would have his own private FBI that could go after his enemies, especially the counter-culture folks and the blacks.
  • Oh and Turkey?
  • They did such a good job at stopping the opium, that there wasn’t enough for the U.S. to make legal opioids like morphine and codeine.
  • So the Nixon administration needed to ask them to start growing it again.
  • And they of course said – how much money is in it for us this time?
  • And other opium-growing countries started asking for handouts as well.
  • So America was being blackmailed.
  • So it gave up on the idea of paying countries not to grow opium and fell back on enforcement and crop eradication to stop farmers from growing their most profitable crop.
  • Number of Americans who died in 1971 from all legal and illegal drugs: 2,313.
  • Number who died choking on food: 2,227.

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